A recent ABC Radio National program interviewed a number of expert report writers, child psychiatrists and psychologists who interview children in cases where there are claims of child sexual assault and prepare reports for the family courts. The ABC investigation aimed to examine the role and influence of expert report writes in how courts decide claims of abuse. The ABC reports:
“In a number of Family Court cases, where claims of child sexual abuse have been made against a father, the court has switched care from the mother to the father after a recommendation by a child psychiatrist or psychologist.”
The report looks at the controversy over the influence of expert report writers and how their assessments “can be pivotal to a court’s decision on how to allocate custody”. It further discusses the current critique of the Family Court over how it deals with family violence and child sexual abuse.
On the issue of family violence, Australian of the Year and family violence campaigner Rosie Batty called for a Royal Commission into the Family Court, “telling senators the institution is her ‘biggest area of concern’, and that it’s an area that is ‘beyond investigation, beyond reproach’.” Batty’s personal experience is that ‘you’re viewed in court as likely to be lying to manipulate the system.’
Meanwhile, on the issue of child sexual abuse, the ABC investigation argues that for years, the Family Court has been accused of demonatrating bias against parents making allegations and being disbelieving of the children’s claims, an accusation the Family Court “strongly rejects”, arguing:
“It’s not the Family Court’s job to assess whether allegations are true or false—instead, it has to assess whether a parent poses an unacceptable risk to a child.”
On the hot subject of false allegations, the report notes that “some studies estimate anywhere between four and 20 per cent, (but) research commonly shows that in custody cases, false allegations make up around 10 per cent of the total”. However, some report writers claim ‘the vast majority’ of the allegations are falsified.
You can listen to the full podcast or read the full transcript here: http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/backgroundbriefing/in-the-childs-best-interests-v2/6533660#transcript
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